At some point in your independent creative career, you’re going to have to start thinking about your audience. How are you as a writer going to garner a following? How are you going to maintain it?
One of the best ways to do that is through a newsletter. As a writer, a newsletter allows you to have a direct connection to your reader and fan base. Too often writing and publishing is daunting and our stories get lost in the rubble. With a newsletter, you can send your books and stories directly to your readers without worrying about whether or not they’ll see your work.
Instead of focusing on starting a newsletter, I want to talk about how to get your audience to interact with your newsletter. 47% of people base their initial engagement with an email on the subject line. Open and click rates are how you can tell whether or not your audience is engaging with your newsletter. Low percentages and your readers aren’t active. If you’re scratching your head trying to get your audience to open your emails or just starting out, these subject lines are garnered to get people clicking.
Open Me Up
I did some research into other writers’ newsletters and experimenting with my own to see which subject lines really get readers opening emails and engaging with the content. Below are the top 5 subject lines that have garnered high open rates and successful reader engagement.
Hey What’s Up, *|FNAME|*
This subject line may seem simple and sorta unprofessional, but that’s the point. This type of subject line sounds like it’s coming from a friend, a real person, not a writer or business trying to sell you things. Your reader has tons of ‘Check Out this Great Deal’ or ‘The Last Writing Resource You’ll Ever Need’ cluttering their inbox. What they want, however, is to hear from a friend.
Be that friend.
Recently, stats showed that almost 70% of readers can tell if an email is spam just from the subject line. Sticking to the personal saves you from going right into the trash. I’ve used this randomly and for welcome messages. The best engagement I’ve seen has been for welcome messages, however. They tend to have the same feel as simple ‘how’s it going?’ emails.
Here’s a Token of My Appreciation, *|FNAME|*
While this one rings of selling and isn’t as personal as the first one, this peeks readers’ curiosities. What have they done that deserves appreciating? What are you giving to them for it? These questions will prompt and compel them to open the email. This is best used when you have a special offering available.
If you use this to try and sell, your reader might not take the bait. This email subject makes it appear that you are giving, trying to take will take a bit of pizzazz.
*|FNAME|*, Let’s Talk About Your Writing
This is my favorite subject line to use because it opens up a dialogue between me and my audience. I tend to get a lot of responses, click-throughs, and engagement from this type of conversation starter subject line. People actually want to learn and to talk about their writing, shocker!
If you’re sending out emails that help writers become better at their craft, this is the type of subject line you should be using. Talk to your readers. Learn alongside them and get to know what it is they are working on. Knowing what your readers’ interests are will help you design the perfect newsletter to keep them active and engaged throughout both of y’all’s careers.
How to Finish that Story, *|FNAME|*
This is a very specific type of subject line. It actively tells your readers what you’re going to help them do. I like to pinpoint the anxiety of finishing that a lot of writers feel. Relying on heightened emotions reminds the reader that yes, there is something they need to be working on. And you’re here to help.
Emails attached to ‘how to’ subject lines need to be packed with information and resources. Make good on your promise or you’ll lose your audience. They won’t trust your knowledge or the subject lines you send because they’ll learn there’s always a catch.
*|FNAME|*, You’ve Inspired Me
An all-purpose subject line that can be used for releases of new products, sneak peeks, and tutorials. I’ve found a lot of engagement from this because it lines up with the same trigger of emotions as #2. It puts your reader in the place of someone with power, knowledge, and creativity.
Make your reader feel something before they even open your email. The same principles are used when it comes to viral or popular headlines for articles. Emotions are what you’re trying to reach. Win over their hearts, and you’ll have them forever.
Think About Your Readers
Emails with personalized subject lines are 22% more likely to be opened than ones without. The thing to remember is to keep it personal. Use the person’s name, ask their pronouns, and try to engage them with questions, comments, anything to start a conversation with them. Because that’s the point of your newsletter.
Don’t get lost in conversion rates and how much money you can make off of your readers. Instead, worry about getting them to talk to you, getting them to engage with what you are writing.
For a while, I was a part of Niklas Göke’s Write Like a Pro newsletter and even spoke to him a little about newsletters. I was shocked and surprised when he told me that his newsletter actually wasn’t an informative newsletter and more of a generalized one to get people to buy his courses.
“People prefer generalizations.”-Göke
I have no doubt, his general approach works, but each email was for the most part nothing, no conversation, no information, only a sales page with some pull quotes from Google. I, of course, no longer follow that newsletter. I’m a price tag in the real everyday world, making rich assholes richer. Why would I want that from people who give me nothing more than the basic?
Compare Göke’s method to that of August Birch who puts out resource and information-packed emails that I have saved and bookmarked because of how helpful they are. When it comes to newsletters, I want to be informed and entertained more than sold to. And so do other people. Focus on providing your subscribers with a unique experience that is specific to your content.
Aigner Loren Wilson is a queer Black SFWA, HWA, and Codex writer. Her work has appeared in Tordotcom, Fiyah, Vice, and she is a Hugo Award finalist for her editing. Along with her writing roles, she is also the guest editor for Fireside Fiction and Apparition Literary summer and winter issues. Subscribe for access to masterclass courses in writing, editing, and making a living as a creative.